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Changing customer demands necessitate new products and services, technological advances facilitate new ways of working and economic shifts mean companies have to adapt to survive.

Against the current economic backdrop, being open to change has never been more important. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for businesses, which is likely to persist over the coming months. Faced with not knowing what restrictions their staff, suppliers and customers could be under at any given time, businesses need to be able to innovate in response to changing circumstances.

Research (PDF, 764 KB) from our strategic partner Be the Business highlights that the pandemic has acted as a driver for change, with businesses making three years’ worth of innovations in just three months at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s important that this momentum remains as businesses look to navigate the second wave of the virus and rebuild, which is why implementing a change culture, where employees expect and even thrive on change and processes are agile and flexible, can be hugely beneficial.

We take a closer look at how to develop a change culture and encourage innovation to thrive within your organisation.

Benefits of a change culture

Introducing a culture of change within your organisation can bring numerous benefits, including:

  • Competitive advantage – Being able to respond and adapt to market changes quickly and confidently gives businesses a huge advantage and ensures they can capitalise on gaps in the market, as well as successfully navigating crises that their less agile competitors may struggle to overcome. For example, many businesses had to pivot their operations in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but it was those that were able to get new products and services off the ground quickly, before the market became saturated, that saw the biggest financial rewards.
  • Greater innovation – Organisations with a change culture are more likely to encourage creative thinking and innovation, which in turn can lead to new products and services and better ways of working. People are more likely to put forward ideas if they know they’ll be received positively.
  • Increased productivity – Having a culture which promotes change and flexibility makes it easier for staff to scale their workloads up and down as needed and meet demands as they rise. Working in this way also helps boost employee engagement, which in turn has a positive impact on productivity.
  • Customer loyalty – Customers’ needs and wants change over time, and if you want them to remain loyal to your brand, you need to be able to meet their demand for new products and services before newcomers are able to swoop in.
  • Staff retention – It’s not just customers’ needs which change. Staff, particularly the younger generation, want to feel like they are developing in the workplace and being given the chance to learn new skills and have new experiences. And if they don’t get this, they’ll likely become bored or unmotivated and may eventually leave. Research shows that 68% of employees have changed jobs because of a lack of learning and development opportunities.
  • Cost savings – Being open to change means you’ll be better positioned to spot opportunities for and implement efficiencies which could save both time and money in the long run.

How to develop and nurture a change culture

Developing a culture of change within your business takes time and effort, at all levels. Here are some ways to start developing and nurturing a change culture in your organisation:

  • Have a clear vision. In order to nurture a change culture, you need to know what that looks like for your organisation and how it will affect people’s roles and responsibilities. Will your focus be on technological changes or embracing new business opportunities, or a combination of both? Having a clearly-defined vision also makes it easier to assess how far away your company culture currently is from where you’d like to be and can help you decide what actions you need to take. Do employees already thrive on change or are they likely to be resistant initially? Will you need to make any significant investments i.e. in technology or even new roles?
  • Start at the top. Change can be unsettling, and employees are likely to look to those in leadership roles for support and direction. Executives and managers need to lead by example and show all employees that they themselves are open to change for the greater good of the company. Make sure that senior members of staff are onboard with your vision for a change culture and that they have the tools and information they need to cascade this down.
  • Find allies. Is there anyone in your organisation who thrives on change? Recruit them to help you spread the word and communicate the benefits a change culture can bring.
  • Involve all staff. Change can come from all levels of an organisation and staff should be encouraged to suggest ways their role and working environment could be improved. Ensure there are clear channels where employees can put their ideas forward, whether it’s a suggestions box, online forum or regular staff meetings. Make sure employees receive feedback on their suggestions and credit for any taken forward.
  • Communicate clearly and regularly. The prospect of change can be daunting, however, the more people know about why, how and when changes are being implemented, the more they’ll be willing to embrace them. Regular meetings (face-to-face or virtual), a company newsletter, regular 1-2-1s and ‘open door hours’ when staff know managers are available for a chat give workers an opportunity to raise any questions or concerns. Make sure you communicate both the positives and negatives of any changes so they have realistic expectations.
  • Focus on training. Business changes often result in staff needing new skills, for example, they may need to use a new bit of kit, or switch to new ways of working. Having a robust training and development programme in place can help reassure staff that whatever changes are coming, they’ll receive the help they need to adapt. There is also specific training available to help adjust employees’ mindset and encourage them to embrace change and be more resilient, which could prove helpful if any employees are proving particularly resistant.
  • Drive accountability. Change will only be successful if every person involves takes accountability for their role and helps drive the change forward. Make sure expectations and responsibilities are clearly communicated and that you regularly check-in with employees to ensure they are doing their bit.
  • Demonstrate how change creates opportunity. If successful, changes should bring with them opportunities for your staff as well as the overall business. For example, expanding into new products or services could create opportunities for new roles, while learning how to use new technologies and developing new skills can help staff further their careers. Identifying what opportunities upcoming changes can create and communicating them clearly to staff can help make them much more receptive to change.

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